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Ireland, Spain and Norway recognizing a Palestinian state

Norway, Spain, Ireland recognize Palestinian state
Norway, Spain and Ireland recognize Palestinian state 02:00

Norway, Ireland and Spain said Wednesday they are recognizing a Palestinian state in a historic move that drew condemnation from Israel and jubilation from the Palestinians. Israel immediately ordered back its ambassadors from Norway and Ireland and appeared ready to do the same with its ambassador to Spain.

The official recognition by the three nations of an independent Palestinian state will take effect on May 28, Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide told a news conference Wednesday, the Reuters news agency reports.  

It was a lightning cascade of announcements. First was Norway, whose Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said "there cannot be peace in the Middle East if there is no recognition," adding that, "By recognizing a Palestinian state, Norway supports the Arab peace plan."

Several European Union countries have in the past weeks indicated that they plan to make the same move, arguing that a two-state solution is essential for lasting peace in the region. The decision may generate momentum for the recognition of a Palestinian state by other EU countries and could spur further steps at the United Nations, deepening Israel's isolation.

Norway was first with its announcement  

Norway, which isn't a member of the European Union but mirror its moves, has been an ardent supporter of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

Norway's Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store, right, next to Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide, announces during a May 22, 2024 press conference in Oslo that Norway is recognizing Palestine as an independent state effective May 28.  ERIK FLAARIS JOHANSEN/NTB / AFP via Getty Images

"The terror has been committed by Hamas and militant groups who are not supporters of a two-state solution and the state of Israel," the Norwegian government leader said. "Palestine has a fundamental right to an independent state."

The move comes as Israeli forces have led assaults on the northern and southern edges of the Gaza Strip in May, causing a new exodus of hundreds of thousands of people, and sharply restricted the flow of aid, raising the risk of famine.

The Scandinavian country "will therefore regard Palestine as an independent state with all the rights and obligations that entails," Gahr Støre said.

The development comes more than 30 years after the first Oslo accord was signed in 1993. Since then, "the Palestinians have taken important steps towards a two-state solution," the Norwegian government said.

It said that the World Bank determined that a Palestinian state had met key criteria to function as a state in 2011, that national institutions have been built up to provide the population with important services.

"The war in Gaza and the constant expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank still mean that the situation in Palestine is more difficult than it has been in decades," the Norwegian government said.

Ireland followed suit  

Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris also made his announcement Wednesday, saying it was a move coordinated with Spain and Norway, "an historic and important day for Ireland and for Palestine." He said the move was intended to help move the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to resolution through a two-state solution.

Ireland's Prime Minister Simon Harris, center, flanked by Ireland's Minister of Foreign Affairs Michel Martin, right, and Ireland's Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan, delivers a speech during a May 22, 2024 press conference in Dublin that their nation is recognizing a Palestinian state effective May 28, 2024. PAUL FAITH / AFP via Getty Images

Harris said he thinks other countries will join Norway, Spain and Ireland in recognizing a Palestinian state "in the weeks ahead."

Spain joined in

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, his country's Socialist leader since 2018, made the expected announcement to his nation's Parliament on Wednesday.

He's spent months touring European and Middle Eastern countries to garner support for the recognition of a Palestinian state, as well as a possible ceasefire in Gaza. He has said several times that he was committed to the move.

"We know that this initiative won't bring back the past and the lives lost in Palestine, but we believe that it will give the Palestinians two things that are very important for their present and their future: dignity and hope," Sánchez said.

Spain's Prime Minister Sanchez announces recognition of Palestinian state
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announcing in Madrid on May 22, 2024 that his country's council of ministers would recognize an independent Palestinian state effective May 28, 2024. Violeta Santos Moura / REUTERS


"This recognition is not against anyone, it is not against the Israeli people," Sánchez added, while acknowledging that it will most likely cause diplomatic tensions with Tel Aviv. "It is an act in favor of peace, justice and moral consistency."

Sánchez argued that the move is needed to support the viability of a two-state solution that he said "is in serious danger" with the war in Gaza.

"I have spent weeks and months speaking with leaders inside and outside of the region and if one thing is clear is that Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu does not have a project of peace for Palestine, even if the fight against the terrorist group Hamas is legitimate," the Spanish leader said.

Earlier this month, Spain's Foreign Minister José Albares said he had informed U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken of his government's intention to recognize a Palestinian state.

In response to the fast-moving developments, Israel's Foreign Minister Israel Katz ordered his country's ambassadors from Ireland and Norway to immediately return to Israel, and earlier threatened to do the same with its ambassador to Spain if it took the same stand.

"Ireland and Norway intend to send a message today to the Palestinians and the whole world: terrorism pays," Katz said.

He said that the recognition could impede efforts to return Israel's hostages being held in Gaza and makes a cease-fire less likely by "rewarding the jihadists of Hamas and Iran."

Reactions starting

A senior official of Hamas, which is embroiled in the war with Israel in Gaza, said Wednesday the "brave resistance" of the Palestinian people spurred Norway, Ireland and Spain to recognize a Palestinian state, Agence France-Press reports.

"These successive recognitions are the direct result of this brave resistance and the legendary steadfastness of the Palestinian people. ... We believe this will be a turning point in the international position on the Palestinian issue," Bassem Naim, a senior Hamas political bureau member, told AFP.

The Palestine Liberation Organization, seen worldwide as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, called the moves by Norway, Ireland and Spain "historical moments in which the free world triumphs for truth and justice," according to AFP, citing a post on X from Hussein al-Sheikh, secretary general of the PLO executive committee.

Meanwhile,  Israel's far right national security minister, Itamar Ben Gvir, visited Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque compound, declaring the contested holy site belongs "only to the state of Israel."

Ben-Gvir said the visit was a response to the move by Norway, Ireland and Spain. "We will not even allow a statement about a Palestinian state," he said.

The hilltop compound is revered by Jews and Muslims, and the conflicting claims have led to numerous rounds of violence in the past.

Israel allows Jews to visit the compound, but not to pray there. But the visit is likely to be seen around the world as a provocation.

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